String of accidents on problem pavements

A VISITOR to Wells who tripped on a pavement in the city says she intends to make a claim for compensation from Somerset Council.

Tracey McRae, who lives in Cambridge, was visiting Wells for the first time with her husband Keith and dog Betty when she tripped on the edge of a manhole cover set into the pavement in Queen Street.

She is just one of several people who have been sent sprawling by the city’s pavements in the past three weeks alone.

Wells Voice spoke to Tracey two days after her fall on September 12, and she said: “I kind of rolled my ankle on the lid and went flying. It was a shock. Luckily I didn’t break anything, but I am bruised, and my left shoulder and arm and palm are sore, my knees are bruised and I’m stiff.”

She said that she has been in touch with Somerset Council – the local authority responsible for the pavements – which has logged the incident, and that she is going to appoint a solicitor to take up a claim for compensation from the council.

“I love Wells, it’s lovely, but you don’t want people to be put off coming,” she said.

Rob Bevan of Protec says that Tracey’s accident is one of many he has seen outside his shop in Queen Street. He is planning to raise the issue of hazardous pavements and kerbs again at the Wells City Council meeting on September 28, when he will urge city councillors to put pressure on Somerset Council to carry out repairs.

Rob said it seems that there is unlikely to be repair work carried out unless something is protruding or sunken to a certain depth, but he said: “When you trip on an uneven, rocking pavement or kerb, it’s a tripping hazard full stop. Please maintain our beautiful city.”

Simon Schachter, owner of the A2 Gallery at 80 High Street, said: “The retailers of Wells are fed up with having to deal with shoppers, visitors and tourists falling due to the lack of maintenance of the pavements here.

“Wells is littered with broken paving stones which do not get repaired. Most of this is caused by vehicles parking or driving on the pavements. I have a raised paving slab outside the gallery which has been a trip hazard for years. I have reported it twice this year after pedestrians have fallen and had facial injuries, and Somerset Council still insist it is ‘not a safety issue and not severe enough’.”

Jean MacCormack was one of the people to fall recently outside the A2 Gallery. She said: “It was on August 30, I was walking home to Priest Row, about 5pm – there was hardly anyone about, but I caught my left toe on one of the stones outside the Gallery and fell over. I fell flat onto the ground; shopping, keys, everything dropped.

“I bruised the inside of my left knee and grazed my right knee plus hurt my right hand and grazed that too. The reason I don’t like falling over – apart from the indignity of it – is because I have osteoporosis and my bones don’t heal well.

“The pavements in Wells really are bad and not helped by the fact that the council won’t remove the weeds anymore.”

Another woman tripped over the same protruding paving slab and had to be taken to hospital with cuts to her face and a suspected broken nose.

The 72-year-old – who asked not to be named – said: “I am pretty used to navigating the wonky pavements of Wells, having lived in the area for decades and being a frequent visitor. But on September 9, at around 4pm, I had just visited the Bubwith Almshouses on their Open Day and was making my way to visit friends. One second I was walking along the pavement, the next I had done a spectacular ‘face-plant’ and was aware of acute pain, lots of blood and a small crowd of concerned people who had come to my aid, helping me to my feet, offering me tissues and wet wipes and generally being lovely and helpful. A big thanks to them, and to Simon who had heard me hitting the deck.

“A phone call to my friends meant that they were soon on the scene and they took me to the MIU at West Mendip Hospital. I sustained extensive bruising and lacerations on the right side of my face and a suspected fracture to my nose.

“My grievance with Somerset Council is their refusal to do anything, up till now, about something which is, obviously, a recurring trip hazard, and the fact that any claim against them would automatically be declined because of a nonsensical ‘one inch’ law.

“Probably if it had been a more obvious fault, I would have noticed it, and would have been able to avoid it.”

Tonia Carter, who works at Merlins the Jewellers in Sadler Street, also tripped recently on the pavement outside Superdrug, and bruised her hip, elbow and wrist. She said that the pain meant she could not sleep properly for two weeks afterwards.

“It was horrible, it was embarrassing. I felt myself going down in slow motion. It could have been so different if I’d smacked my head.”

Tonia is in her 50s, and said it is not just the elderly and the infirm who are suffering accidents.

She added: “I’d love my parents to move here but I’m thinking it’s just not safe for them.”

Wells City Council is keen to investigate taking over delegated authority for minor pavement repairs if agreement can be reached with Somerset Council, which currently has responsibility for the pavements and Market Place.

Meanwhile, causes of falls can be reported at Wells Town Hall and this information will be passed on for the attention of Somerset Council.

Wells City Councillor Denise Denis, Chair of the city council’s Planning & Environment Committee, said: “The broken kerbs are caused by delivery vans and lorries and is a great concern. If there is no loading bay available the vehicles have to do this but it causes kerb stones to dip in and crack. This compounds the hazards pedestrians face, along with the channels which seem to add to the complexity of crossing or stepping off the pavement.

“Wells City Council had been asking for a traffic survey with the view to traffic calming measures prior to the pandemic. I have requested this to be done since the unitary authority came into being but I have not had a reply to my request.”

A Somerset Council spokesperson said: “We carry out regular inspections across our network, including pavements in our towns and villages.

“With 4,172 miles of roads to cover our Highways team has to prioritise, and order maintenance works based on need and relative risk. This is not based on specific measurements only but also on position and prominence of the issue, and specifically if it has been reported as causing problems by the public or local partners such as the parish or town council. Any problems identified from site inspections or notification from the public will be programmed for repair accordingly as quickly as possible.

“Residents and businesses owners have a key role to play and if you spot a problem you can report it quickly and easily by visiting our online ‘Report a problem on the road’ portal at”

Picture: An image taken from CCTV footage that captured the moment Tracey McRae fell while walking along Queen Street